My therapist asked me a few weeks ago, how would I feel if we got pregnant again. After all I’d been through, and the extraordinarily likely possibility of having another preterm baby, how would I feel? It was a challenging question, because there were so many angles and perspectives to consider. I feared illness, pain, and the danger preeclampsia presents to both me and a child.
But I also was interested in the possibilities. To have an experience I could prepare for. To deal with the postpartum depression and anxiety from a new place, from a place of understanding. A chance to do things right. To have a birth I knew how to deal with, even if not exactly the one I imagine.
In the last few weeks, we’ve had a number of stressful situations come to bear. My mother had a massive heart attack, frighting us all beyond our capacity. But she, in her wisdom, saved her own life by calling an ambulance and taking an aspirin. My husband’s grandfather died. We all experienced that desire for another chance, whether it was in a moment of fear and panic, or as a regret that there hadn’t been one more trip.
I understand that what I really want, more than anything, is another chance. I don’t want another child. I want back the months of Ben’s earliest life that I missed. Certainly, I was present, but it was not clear, there was too much anxiety, too much fog. I want the opportunity to enjoy sitting quietly with him. I want the opportunity to let him play in his crib while I attend – happily, comfortably, instead of frantically – to other, enjoyable tasks. I want the chance to sleep when he sleeps. I want to enjoy who he was at his smallest, most pure, most needful.
I love our small family the way it is, and I do want Ben to be our only child. But I find myself wishing for the chance to recover those things I lost in the dark forest of depression and anxiety that tangled my path for so long. As I continue on the path of recovery, I look back at those steps, and wish I could take them differently. I don’t believe a second child is my way to do that. But I hope that in serving other mothers and families, advocating, and working for better and sooner treatment, that perhaps I can change that path for another, and in doing so, change my own. That is what I want, now.